truly useful wine gifts

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

‘Tis the season, we are told, to purchase stuff for people who already have too much of everything. Yet it’s better to give than receive, so we dutifully trudge to the malls, or scan the online retailers, for things that those special someones in our lives might actually find useful.

Which is where those of us with wine as a hobby sing “Hallelujah!” Because why? Because there are a gazillion wine gizmos and gadgets out there, and more appear every year!

I am not going to tell you about all the latest. I will studiously avoid talking about the needle-thing that you poke into your wine so you can taste it without actually opening it. I am not going to describe yet another aeration device that will shake up your wine in ever-more creative ways, since obviously the winemaker didn’t do the job right in the first place. As for books, well, see my post about Jon Bonnés new book – that’s the first and most important book you should buy.

Let’s take a look at the basics. The basics are the things that never go out of style, that are truly useful, and that every wine drinker needs. I cannot tell you how often I’ve been in the home of a wine enthusiast, someone with a deep and abiding affection for wine, who somehow failed to own a decent cork puller; or a practical decanter; or a full set (12 glasses) of all-purpose stemware; or a couple of wine chilling freezer packs. These things are always needed. You never have enough. So go forth and purchase!


It’s odd but true; even the most avid wine collectors rarely own a decent waiter’s corkscrew. Sure, they might have one of those wretched things with the flip-up metal wings, or the latest lever-style cork-puller from Rabbit or Screwpull or one of the companies making knock-offs. But what they really need is one good, all-purpose pull-tap. Find one that feels ergonomically correct in your hand. It should have a “worm” (the screw part) that is as thin as possible and Teflon-coated; and the part that grips the lip of the bottle should be double hinged, for added leverage with longer corks. This is the one style of cork-puller that will work on everything, including those horrid rubber and plastic corks that will destroy your Rabbit. Every wine shop in town will be able to show you a good selection of waiter’s pull-taps, and you needn’t spend more than $20 to get a really good one.

Really Useful Stuff

A decanter is something everyone should have, and you cannot have too many. You can find nice ones in almost any antique shop; they will have more character than a brand new one and may even cost less. Just beware of chips, cracks and discolorations. Another exceptionally useful little gizmo is the Rapid Ice wine chiller from VacuVin. You keep it in your freezer and it will slip over a bottle of wine and quickly chill it; especially handy when you’ve grabbed something at the supermarket to drink with supper and you need to get it cold fast.

Wine Shippers

Anyone who flies on Alaska knows that the first case of wine can be shipped free, and it’s a terrific option. But what if you just want to safely tuck a bottle or two into your luggage?

The cheapest solution is to ask your local wine merchant for a styrofoam two-pack. Believe me, anyone who gets a lot of wine will have these, and they cannot be re-cycled, so re-used is the best option.

Commercially-available, single or multiple bottle protection is available from Jet Bag, WineHug, WineSkin, Wine Diaper (who thought that was a good name?) and VinniBag, among others. Neoprene two-bottle totes are another good option. Or just wrap the bottle in a couple of pairs of heavy socks and you’re probably OK.

If you want to move a case, which means you have to check it, try to get someone to give you the 12-bottle styrofoam. Same logic – they’re out there, and better to re-use them, at least for awhile. For something sturdy, along the lines of real luggage, you can move up to 6 and 12-bottle, padded, wheeled carriers that do the job really well.

Search for “wine carrier travel” under Luggage & Bags on Amazon and you’ll find a full range of options.

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